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Productive selling – Manage your time and make more sales (coming soon!)

productive_selling

I’ve spent the last few months working behind closed doors on an online training course : Productive Selling – Manage Your Time and Make More Sales and thought it was about time that I told you about it!

When I began sales consulting and blogging on the subject it occurred to me that for people who sell there are only two ways under your control to win more sales and increase your income. The first is to improve your selling skills – something that I suggest you strive to do and have blogged on at length. The second is to use your precious time more effectively.

Selling is unusual in that typically your income is highly dependent on performance. It’s also by nature a competitive activity. If you lose a sale by a margin of 1% you get zero (0), not 99% of the revenue that you had hoped for. Yet to make those sales you are faced with unique challenges including interruptions that you can’t ignore, lack of routine, often no fixed office, travel and dealing with the unpredictability of people.

 

This is why I’ve developed Productive Selling – Manage Your Time and Make More Sales. The course is in the final stages of production and will be released on Udemy very soon. To register your interest please click one of the links above and I’ll let you know when it’s available including an exclusive offer for those who’ve pre-registered. The course is intended for sales pros, small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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Why do sales people make things so hard for themselves?

heBuying is a great way to learn about selling. Some years ago I worked with an organisation and several of their members became interested in using a particular product. Because I knew about these products they asked me to contact the vendor to arrange a meeting and negotiate a group deal. So I contacted the vendor’s CEO who confirmed that they would be delighted to meet up and arrange a group deal. Their VP Sales was cc’ed on this response and I was told he’d be in touch.

Over a month later I hadn’t heard a thing. Frankly if I’d been buying the product for my own company I would have gone elsewhere. But my client’s members were still interested so I persevered, a meeting was arranged, a deal agreed and business was done. But this was despite their sales guy’s poor follow up on multiple occasions.

The VP Sales was charming and knowledgeable face-to-face and in some ways this might be the root of the problem. Many sales people are charming and knowledgeable and love the face-to-face aspect of their job so much that they lose track of the dull, boring stuff such as following up on actions agreed. But you have to remember that people might buy from you the first time because they like you, but they’ll only buy again if they trust you. And by trust I don’t mean honesty, 99.9% of us are honest, I mean trust in the sense of knowing that what you say, you’ll do.

If you find it difficult to follow up promptly on your meetings, it’s up to you to improve your time management skills and effectiveness.

 

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Prospecting by email: Does the early bird catch the worm?

when to send your prospecting emailIf you’re prospecting by email a key question is: what time of day you should send your mail? Like any hunter you need to put yourself in the shoes of your prey to be successful (think wildebeest and waterholes). That means understanding the email habits of your prospects. Intuition suggests that most people check their email first thing in the morning (bad idea!), at lunchtime and at the end of the day. If like me you are a inbox zero person you perhaps think that it doesn’t matter what time the prospecting email arrives, because all emails in the inbox will be reviewed and dealt with. But inbox zero people are few and far between.

In my experience most people operate the “infinite inbox” system. Actually that’s an insult to the word “system”. They let stuff pile up in their inbox, occasionally filing the odd email that they think they may need again. When they check their email they do a cursory scan of the inbox, only opening stuff that looks like it might be important, for instance from their boss. What this means is that emails from people that they don’t know, even with the most eye-catching subject line simply won’t get opened. When they next check their email a few more will have landed and the earlier ones will have scrolled off the page into email oblivion (kind of like your Twitter timeline).

For this reason it’s imperative to send your prospecting emails at the right time. Ideally you want it to land as they process their email, or slightly beforehand and when they have time to read it. Research from Pure360 suggests that actually the best time is between 5 and 6pm in your target timezone. You can either do this manually or use a tool such as Boomerang for Gmail or Outlook to schedule your mail. So remember, in prospecting, as in life, timing is everything.

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Contact management advice from the experts

I was recently honoured to be asked by Brad Patterson to contribute to an article over at evercontact. Contact management can sound like a trivial issue but nowadays when people are juggling contacts in email, CRM systems, LinkedIn, social media and even (believe it or not) on paper leveraging the value of your contacts is critical. Even more so when you are in a customer-facing role.

At Evercontact we’re all about helping you improving your contact management by automating the data input process thus ensuring you always have the RIGHT contact info when you need it. From there, what you do with that data is an art in and of itself, and for that reason, I decided to reach out to some of our power-users and others in the community so that they could share their strategies, tips and hacks on how they optimize their interactions within their community.

Click –> here <– to read the full article.

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Seven tips to help you set next year’s sales goals

Achieving next year's sales goals

Achieving next year’s sales goals

 

It’s Q4 (where did the time go?) and whether you’re self-employed, a small business owner or a sales pro now is the time to be setting your sales goals for next year. Most customers are goal and budget setting as well, so it’s is an excellent time to sit down and set targets for the coming year. Here are some goal setting tips for you…

1. Top Down. If you have objectives set by your management they should, of course, be in there. If you have larger personal or life goals they should also feed into your 2010 sales goals.

2. SMART. Make your goals SMART ones…

  • S = Specific. What, why, and how?
  • M = Measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
  • A = Attainable. You probably won’t really commit to a goal that’s out of reach. Too easy and you won’t get that sense of achievement when you get there.
  • R = Realistic. Is it something that is under your control? If not it’s a hope not a goal.
  • T = Timely. Set a timeframe. Include milestones along the way… don’t just set a year-end goal.

3. Make your goals tangible. What will it feel like to achieve those goals? Imagine what you will buy with the commission, what will you do on your President’s Club trip, how will it feel when you get presented with the Sales Person of the Year award at the next annual sales meeting? Use all of your senses here… imagine what that champagne will taste like!

4. Include professional goals as well as sales targets. What job do you want to be doing this time next year? Do you want to move to another company? Do you want to set up on your own as a rep? What new skills do you want to attain in the next year?

5. Learn from your mistakes. Take the opportunity to look back on the last year. What did you do well, what could you have improved upon and how? What will you do differently this year?

6. Reward yourself along the way. Regardless of what your company’s reward policy might be, give yourself some treats along the way for goals/milestones achieved.

7. Keep the number of goals manageable. Nobody was ever one-sixteenth committed to anything. Better to have two really crunchy, very specific, achievable goals than sixteen flaky goals including how often you should back-up your PC.

Good luck and good selling for the next year.

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Using Evernote for contact management

card file

Before Evernote

Computer, tablet or smartphone users have many ways of storing their contacts. There’s usually a default contact manager, which can suck in contacts from your email system, social media, a CRM system, etc. You can search all of those systems independently to find the contacts that you need. But often storing and retrieving contact data is not a problem the real issue is entering that data in the first place, and the productivity hit that it causes.

The systems that I’ve described are great at capturing standardised data, such as the address from someone who emails you. But often the information that you receive isn’t in a standard format, it could be from a…

  • Web page, or online press release
  • Business card or other printed material
  • email sig
  • Conversation over the phone or at a networking event
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Other social media profiles such as Twitter or facebook

To use this freeform data you have to get it into a system, but manual entry is slow and painful; and we all know how busy sales and small business people are. Furthermore after you’ve taken the time to enter it into your system, will you ever need it again? This explains why many sales people detest using a CRM system, it turns them into data-entry clerks. I understand this well, over the years I’ve been obsessive about entering contacts into my database only to look at them now and wonder how I ever knew some of them.

This is where Evernote can be invaluable. Evernote provides multiple methods to quickly capture information and make it searchable. So let’s go through the examples above and consider how we get the contact data into our system. But firstly a bit of preparation is in order. I suggest you set up a “contacts” tag in Evernote, or even a “contacts” notebook to hold your contact data…

  • Web pages or online press releases. There are a couple of ways to capture contact data here:
    • Firstly using the Evernote web clipper. This is the browser add-in that lets you capture whole web pages, articles, a selection or just the url from within your browser of choice. The clip initially goes to your online Evernote account where it can be viewed immediately. If you’re using the Evernote app running on your Mac, PC or smartphone the data will be available there after your next sync.
    • The second way to capture data from a web page, or for that matter any document on screen, is using the Helper app that sits in the Taskbar on a Windows machine and the Menubar on a Mac. However this has an extra feature. It also lets you select a rectangle on screen and capture that as an image. This allows you to capture contact data when the web page is complex and trying to select the text is difficult. Although this is an image, Evernote’s optical character recognition (OCR) capability means that it is still searchable.
  • Business card and other printed or even handwritten material.
    • A scanner can be used to capture physical data. These vary from specialised business card scanners to desktop scanners or combined printer/scanners. Some scanners integrate directly with Evernote.
    • But by far the easiest way to do this is with your smartphone. Smartphones have great cameras nowadays and the ability to run an Evernote app. You can take a photo directly from the Evernote app on Android which will, of course, sync with your web and desktop apps.
  • email sig. Often someone’s email sig will contain all of their contact details such as job title, landline, mobile, Skype address, Twitter username, and even the name of their assistant. Fortunately we can send emails directly into Evernote using the custom email address that is provided for each user. So if you want to capture someone’s sig just forward the email into Evernote. If you don’t want all of the email text you can delete it just leaving the email address and sig when you forward it, or do it in Evernote. When forwarding it you can add #contacts or @contacts to the subject to either have Evernote automatically tag it with “contacts” or add it to your “contacts” notebook.
  • Conversation over the phone or face-to-face. What a low tech way to communicate! But still there are options…
    • Jot the contact details down on paper and later scan it into Evernote using your phone.
    • Create a new note using your smartphone Evernote app and type in the data.
    • The Evernote mobile apps on Android and iPhone let you record audio directly into a note. So you can dictate the contact details and listen later on phone or Mac/PC and transcribe the note.
  • LinkedIn profile. This is a web page so can be captured simply using the web clipper or Helper app. You may wish to clip all of their information (career history, education, industry bodies, etc) or just keep it short and sweet and clip only their contact details.
  • Other social media profiles such as Twitter or facebook. Well once again, these can be viewed as web pages so content including contact data can be clipped using the helper app or the web clipper. For instance the web clipper, when set to clip “article” will neatly capture someone’s Twitter profile.
Screenshot of LinkedIn data clipped to Evernote

Clipped from LinkedIn

So there you have it, a whole bunch of ways in which you can capture rich contact data into Evernote. Evernote’s powerful search capabilities mean that finding a contact is then easy, but how we organise those contacts and use them, for instance when prospecting, we’ll cover another day.

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Three easy ways to create templates in Evernote

Evernote is great at capturing all kinds of information from photos, to audio clips, to web clippings and beyond. However often we want to capture similar information, such as the minutes of a meeting, or a sales phone call. In such a situation it’s also useful to have some “prompts” to make sure that you ask the right questions and record everything that you need to follow up effectively.

What we need is a template. The question is how to create one, given that Evernote doesn’t have a simple way of creating and managing templates? Here are three ways to do just that finishing with, what is in my opinion the most powerful method –

1KustomNote is a web app that links to Evernote letting you create templates/forms, fill them in and save the data into your Evernote account.

  • Pros
    • Integrates well with Evernote
    • Creates interesting looking templates using in-built themes
    • Integration (at a price) with Evernote Business
  • Cons
    • Costs up to $4/month depending on the features you require
    • The default themes are a bit “cutesy”. They look nice, but take up a lot of room and some people (myself included) would prefer a clean, text-only template.

2. Export a Note from Evernote and use this as a template. Create your template note in Evernote. Select “File” –> “Export Note” and save it to somewhere handy (e.g. your desktop) under a suitable name. This will create a file in .enex (Evernote export) format. When you want to create a note using the template, just drag & drop the .enex file back into Evernote and a new note will be created with the template contents and even the same tags as the template.

  • Pros
    • Works fine
  • Cons
    • Slightly clunky way to do things
    • Could get messy with multiple templates

3. Use a Text Expander. Text expanders are apps that let you enter a preset keystroke sequence, preceeded or followed by a “hotkey” combination which will then insert a string of text. More powerful text expanders when triggered can produce a pick-list, open an app or even a web page. Good examples are TextExpander on the Mac (from $34) and PhraseExpander on the PC (from $56).

So, for instance, on my Mac I can open a new note in Evernote, type “phc” (for phone call) followed by a space and Text Expander will expand that to…

Name : _

Position:

Company :

Phone :

email :

Date :

Notes :

Next action…

– Who? :

– What? :

– When? :

You can also tell it where to put the cursor when it generates the text. Here it’s in the top field (next to Name:)

I prefer this approach because it’s a really fast and easy way to generate templates in Evernote, but also for that matter any other tool. For instance I use it in prospecting emails where there are chunks of text that I often use, but I want to customise the email and don’t want a complete “boilerplate” email. I also use it for email sigs because I work for myself as well as a number of clients, so have different email sigs depending on which client I’m representing that day!

If you want to learn more on how to use Text Expander I suggest Take Control of TextExpander

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First thing to do in the New Year – Make that difficult call

Make that difficult call now

Make that difficult call now

I was wondering what’s the most productive thing that you can do now that we’re back after the holidays. How about making that difficult call that you’ve been procrastinating about for a while?

We all have customers or prospects who we’ve been trying to contact for a while, but perhaps we’re not too unhappy that we didn’t manage to do so at the end of the year. Either we’re not sure if our product or service is a good fit for them, or we’ve dealt with them before and it hasn’t been a lot of fun.

Well now’s the ideal time to make that call. We’re rested and ready to go, so are they, and who knows, chances are that their “gatekeeper” isn’t even back from the holidays. It’s always difficult to get responses from people at the end of the year as they try and get projects finished before the year-end, put together budgets for this year, etc so now’s the ideal time. So pick up that phone now…

Minuting customer meetings

The great Sir Winston Churchill once said “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”. He was true to his word, writing “The Second World War”, “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples” and winning the Nobel prize for literature in the process (as you do).
[photo]
Likewise for us the importance of getting your version of a meeting circulated first is not to be underestimated. In fact I heard a story a while back about an ex-colleague who visited a very major account, had an OK meeting and went off on his way. A month or so later his boss wanted to visit this very major account with him and asked our friend to arrange it. So he picks up the phone calls them and asks for the meeting… to which they respond “no… we haven’t seen the action list from the last meeting yet”. Ouch.
As we’ve documented on Real Life Selling previously, sales people are notoriously shy of paperwork. However this is one case where you really have to grit your teeth and bash those minutes out.
If you don’t get your minutes out pretty quickly there are two risks…
* The momentum of the sale is lost. You’ve had a great meeting, got some commitment, but in two weeks time both you and they have moved on to the next urgent item.
* The customer minutes the meeting. “Great” you may think, “that’s saved me the effort”. But, of course, in their version of the minutes the commitments they made may be just a little softer than they seemed at the time and the items you committed to have been “bigged up”.
Here are some suggestions on minuting that I hope you’ll find useful…
Minute meetings as soon after they finish as possible. If it’s at your office, stay on in the meeting room for 15 minutes to write-up the meeting. If it’s at a customer’s site, sit in your car outside and write it up on your laptop before you leave, or at the airport, or on the plane home.
Concentrate on the next actions and use W3… who, what, when.
Start your follow-up actions immediately. You may not be able to finish them, but at least initiate them. So if you need a quotation… fill in the form and submit it. If you need someone to do something, email or call them and tell them what needs doing and by when.
Use your diary or electronic calendar to set some follow-up reminders.
Thank the customer for their time and hospitality.
And finally keep the minutes to-the-point and business-like. As Sir Winston once said “This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read”.

The great Sir Winston Churchill once said “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”. He was true to his word, writing “The Second World War”, “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples” and winning the Nobel prize for literature in the process (as you do).

About to get his version in first!

About to get his version in first!

Likewise for us mere mortals the importance of getting your version of a meeting circulated first is not to be underestimated. In fact I heard a story a while back about an ex-colleague who visited a very major account, had an OK meeting and went off on his way. A month or so later his boss wanted to visit this very major account with him and asked our friend to arrange it. So he picks up the phone calls them and asks for the meeting… to which they respond “no… we haven’t seen the action list from the last meeting yet”. Ouch.

As we’ve documented on Real Life Selling previously, sales people are notoriously shy of paperwork. However this is one case where you really have to grit your teeth and bash those minutes out.

If you don’t get your minutes out pretty quickly there are two risks…

* The momentum of the sale is lost. You’ve had a great meeting, got some commitment, but in two weeks time both you and they have moved on to the next urgent item.

* The customer minutes the meeting. “Great” you may think, “that’s saved me the effort”. But, of course, in their version of the minutes the commitments they made may be just a little softer than they seemed at the time and the items you committed to have been “bigged up”.

Here are some suggestions on minuting that I hope you’ll find useful…

  1. Minute meetings as soon after they finish as possible. If it’s at your office, stay on in the meeting room for 15 minutes to write-up it up. If it’s at a customer’s site, sit in your car outside and use your laptop before you leave, or at the airport, or on the plane home.
  2. Concentrate on the next actions and use W3… who, what, when.
  3. Start your follow-up actions immediately. You may not be able to finish them, but at least initiate them. So if you need a quotation… fill in the form and submit it. If you need someone to do something, email or call them and tell them what needs doing and by when.
  4. Use your diary or electronic calendar to set some follow-up reminders.
  5. Thank the customer for their time and hospitality.
  6. And finally keep the minutes to-the-point and business-like. As Sir Winston said “This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read”.
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Analysis Paralysis – Part II

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

You’ll remember that in Analysis Paralysis – Part I we talked about what happens when paperwork, reports and forecasts get out of hand. The process can be quite insidious with the request sneaking up on you disguised as “an information request” or a “quick summary”. We also gave some ideas on what sales managers can do to keep this under control.

Here are some more ideas for sales teams and sales managers on how to keep the reporting overhead to a minimum.

  • Try and get into a forecasting/reporting rhythm.
  • This should be “written in stone” so everyone knows what information is needed and when. They can their plan their sales activities around it.
  • If you batch your reporting, you minimise the time taken and the distraction. Otherwise you will have to continually stop and spend time to dig out the information you need, set up the spreadsheets, etc.
  • When a request comes in for a new, regular report or forecast push back a bit.
  • Often new Sales VPs don’t feel certain enough of their position to protect their teams time and will go along with almost any request from finance, marketing, ops…
  • How often will it be needed? Press for monthly rather than weekly, quarterly rather than monthly.
  • DON’T WHINGE. But sell your boss on why it’s not such a good idea, remind her of the opportunity cost and suggest an alternative.
  • Keep your records and those of your team up-to-date on an ongoing basis. If you do so then a lot of the information can be easily or automatically extracted from, for instance, your CRM system.

Finally remember, to run any business you need to know what’s happening, so reporting of some sort is inevitable. When you have to do that forecast don’t procrastinate, get on with it, do a good job, get it over with and get back you your selling.

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